Muwanga Kivumbi v. Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda


Constitutional Petition No. 9 of 2005




Civic Space

Date of ruling

May 9, 2005

Crimes/ violations

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Parties involved

Muwanga Kivumbi (Petitionner) v. Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda (Respondent)

Summary of Ruling

Legal issue

(i) Whether Section 32 of the Police Act contravenes Article 29(1) (d) of the Constitution; (ii) Whether the police under Section 32 of the Police Act have power to disperse peaceful assemblies.


The Court held that the powers given to the Inspector General of Police to prohibit the convening of assemblies or processions were an unjustified limitation on the enjoyment of a fundamental right and thus inconsistent with Article 29(1) (d) of the Constitution. The Court further declared Section 32 of the Police Act, null and void.

Reasoning of the Court

The Court reasoned that interpreting Section 32 of the Police Act as authorizing the police to prohibit assemblies would be giving the police powers to impose conditions which are inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution as stated under Article 29(1)(d) which guarantees the enjoyment of the freedom to assemble and demonstrate peacefully and unarmed.

Summary of facts

The petitioner was a member and coordinator of Popular Resistance against Life Presidency (PRALP). PRALP wrote to the Ministry of Internal Affairs seeking permission to hold a political rally in Masaka District. The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Internal Affairs declared the planned rally illegal as the PRALP was not registered. The PRALP also wrote to the District Police Commander (DPC) of Masaka District informing him of its intention to hold a demonstration. The DPC in his reply advised the organization to hold a seminar or consultative meeting in an enclosed place. He warned them that if they went ahead to hold any rally or demonstration, the police would disperse it. The rally was held and the police dispersed it. The petitioner and some other people were arrested. In a related event, the PRALP wrote to the DPC of Mukono District informing him of the organization’s intention to hold a public dialogue in the district. In his reply, the DPC advised the PRALP to hold consultation meetings in an enclosed place as the organization was unregistered. In all these letters, the police officers were quoting Sections 32, 34 and 35 of the Police Act and also the now defunct Article 73 of the Constitution which allowed Parliament to pass laws that regulate political organizations. The petitioner, aggrieved by the above acts of the police, filed this petition requesting the Constitutional Court to declare the provisions of the Police Act unconstitutional.

Summary of the proceedings

The petitioner, aggrieved by the actions of the police to stop him from holding public meetings and distributing information filed this petition in the year 2005. He brought the petition under Article 137(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The petition was supported by the affidavit of the petitioner. The respondent opposed the petition on the ground that the actions of the police were lawful and did not contravene any of the provisions of the Constitution. The answer to the petition was accompanied by two affidavits deposed by, a Senior State Attorney in the respondent’s Chambers and the District Police Commander of Mukono District.

Key jurisprudential elements

This ruling is authoritative in as far as it affirms the role of the police in ensuring that peaceful assemblies and demonstrations are conducted without interruptions. The justification for freedom of assembly in countries which are considered free and democratically governed is to enable citizens to gather and express their views without government restrictions. The government has a duty of maintaining proper channels and structures to ensure that legitimate protest whether political or otherwise can find voice. Maintaining freedom to assemble and express dissent remains a powerful indicator of the democratic and political health of a country. This finding of the Court has been relied on to annul subsequent laws enacted by Parliament that had the same effect of giving powers to the police to authorize or prohibit public assemblies such as Section 8 of the Public Order and Management Act, 2013.